I am not sure why the topic of “Consulting” has been on my mind so much lately. In my line of work in healthcare investment banking, I come across a lot of consultants who work with companies on regulatory strategy, fundraising, marketing, and sales, for example. I think given the current COVID-economy, there are also a lot of recently unemployed professionals who find themselves unwittingly becoming an independent consultant and trying to drum up and service clients.
Consulting can present a formidable challenge, regardless of industry. Just because you’re a consultant doesn’t mean you have to know everything, though you may feel that it is the expectation. As a consultant, you need to be a creative thinking problem-solver capable of creating value for your clients. Your position requires you to utilize a multitude of skills to maximize growth and enhance business performance. Your focus should be on asking the right questions, collecting and analyzing the data to then identify solutions for the organization and providing recommendations and advice. All of this can seem daunting for those new to the field of consulting, so here are a few tips to help you get off to a great start.
Know the Industry and Your Client’s Competitors
To best serve your client, you’ll need to have an understanding of your client’s industry–current trends, headwinds and tailwinds, and competitive landscape. Knowing the industry allows you more room to think creatively and come up with novel solutions to your client’s concerns. Learn more about your client’s niche or competitive advantage within the industry. Is it a technology advantage? A business model advantage? Better execution? Also, know who their biggest competitors are? What are those companies doing that’s different from your client? What sets them apart? Where are they lacking?
Stay current on industry developments; it’s an excellent idea to set up Google Alerts for your client, industry keywords, and your client’s competitors. This can give you a definite advantage and help your client get out ahead of their competitors.
Another thing you can do is to attend meetups and networking events in your client’s industry. Get to know key players and make valuable connections. Your client will not expect you to be the expert in their field–but they will expect you to be very knowledgeable and on top of all of the key market drivers and players in their space.
Research Your Client’s Needs
It’s important to remember it’s not just about the sale; you’re there to provide solutions to your client’s issues. However, you can’t do that if you don’t have a firm grasp of the client’s needs. Ask questions that dig deeper and offer insights along the way when you can. Be curious and go beyond your client’s problem to discover the source or reason for the challenge. Oftentimes their problem or need is not unique. What other companies have faced a similar challenge, and what did they do to solve for it? What can be gleaned from other case studies, even if in different industries? It can help you come up with creative solutions you might not have considered otherwise. Asking the right questions can also demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and help you earn your client’s trust.
Earn Trust and Demonstrate Reliability
On a first time engagement, it is crucial but can be tough to earn your client’s trust and confidence. This can be further challenging, particularly if you’re remote and not meeting face-to-face. One way to earn that trust is to be prompt, reliable, and follow up on your conversations and action items. Do what you say you will do.
When producing deliverables, make sure that they are free of errors. Errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and calculation-related mistakes in your work reflect poorly on you, so it is vitally important that you review all materials before handing them off. Pay attention to details! Ensuring that you provide reliable, accurate deliverables can show the client that you are thorough, and your recommendations will carry more weight.
Starting in consulting may be challenging, but for those who are resourceful and enjoy helping others find solutions, it can be a rewarding career. You may not always have all the answers, but by utilizing these tips, you’ll be off to a great start.
Erik Halvorsen is the Chief Business & Strategy Officer at FAR Biotech. As a result of his industry experience, Erik is an often sought-after public speaker, and he has served as an advisor to various hospitals and start-ups. He is constantly looking for new ways to improve patients’ lives while changing the broader healthcare industry for the better. He has been referred to as a “translator,” in that he has the ability to speak science with businesspeople and speak business with science people.